Triumphs for Tonga’s athletes, artists, workers and women

In the run-up to New Year’s Eve, Kaniva News looks back on the good news from 2016 and the achievements of Tongans around the world.

In this series of reports, we contniue to bring you the highlights of the best stories from each month so you can follow them through the year. You can read the first part here.

  • July

Victory in Budapest

With this year’s Olympics less than three weeks away, New Zealand’s Tongan-born shotput queen Valerie Adams scored a major victory in Budapest.

Adams won in the Hungarian Athletics grand prix meeting in Budapest with a 20.19m throw.

Afterwards she tweeted: “A win in Budapest with 20.19m and a meet record and seasons best. A great competition indeed. Thank you Hungary.”

Adams had been on the comeback trail after undergoing knee and shoulder surgery.


A massive white sculpture by Tongan architect Semisi Potauaine will feature in next year’s Headland Sculpture collection on Waiheke Island in Auckland.

The sculpture, whose Tongan name, Manuesina, translates as white bird, will weigh 4.5 tonnes and cost $NZ60,000.

The work, whose colour symbolises purity and the global spirit, was one of the 34 finalists chosen from 250 entries.

Potauaine, who is associated with Auckland University’s architecture and design programme, is internationally recognised for his work.

Women elected

The election of two women in Tonga in the town and district officer elections had paved the way for more women to enter the Tongan Parliament, according to New Zealand MP Jenny Salesa.

Salesa became the first Tongan speaking woman elected to the New Zealand Parliament in 2014.

Sisifa Fili became the first woman from ‘Eua to be elected to the role of District Officer, while Vika Kaufusi was elected as Town Officer for Haveluloto.

Four women candidates who came second in the election were entitled to take the roles of Acting District and Acting Town Officers.

Salesa said it was time Tonga supported its women.

  • August

Oiled Olympian

Tongan flagbearer Pita Taufatofua stole the show at the Olympic opening in Rio.

The part time model appeared in a traditional taʻovala and a lot of baby oil, causing something of a sensation on the internet, with media outlets all over the world picking up on his appearance.

Taufatofua was the kingdom’s first taekwondo competitor at Olympic level.

He was one of seven athletes competing for Tonga in Rio.

The other members of the team were Amini Fonua (swimming), Siueni Filimone (athletics), Arne Jensen (archery), Taina Halasim (athletics), Irene Prescott (swimming) and Lusitania Tatafu (archery).

They marched fully clothed.

Athletes compete

Tonga’s athletes began competing at the Rio Olympics in the archery events with archers Arne Jensen and Lusitania Tatafu and swimmer Amini Fonua leading the way.

Arne Jensen ranked 61st out of 64 after the first ranking.

In the subsequent round of 64 he scored three against seven by Sjef Vandenberg of the Netherlands.

In the  women’s individual archery, Lusitania Tatafu ranked 63rd out of 64 in the ranking round.

Amini Fonua competed in the 100 metres breastroke, with a time of 1:06:04, coming fifth in the first heat.

Outside the stadium

Tonga’s athletes did not win any medals at the Rio Olympics, but they dominated the news outside the stadium.

Tongan swimmer Amini Fonua launched a ferocious attack on The Daily Beast website after it outed a number of Olympians for using the Grindr app, which is designed to help gay people find partners.

Meanwhile, Britain’s Independent newspaper reported that the Tongan government was hoping for a tourism boom following Tongan flagbearer Pita Taufatofua’s well publicised appearance in the opening ceremony.

It quoted Tourism Tonga spokeswoman Seini Taumoepeau as saying there had been increased online interest in the kingdom, with thousands of people looking at a holiday website and visiting Tonga’s Facebook page.

A well-oiled exit

Tongan flag bearer Pita Taufatofua made a well-oiled exit from the Olympic Games, jumping on stage for a few moments during the closing ceremony in Rio.

The taekwondo competitor joined Julia Michaels and Kygo’s performance of their hit “Carry Me,” dancing as rain fell on the Maracana stadium.

Taufatofua lost his taekwondo match against Iranian medal favourite Sajjad Mardani on the weekend, but still managed to keep his fans cheering.

After the match he posted: “Felt soo privileged to get out on those mats and represent Tonga! There are no excuses, I started slow, got caught and lost to a legend of Taekwondo, a great opponent in Iran.  Thank you for the love, prayers and support without you all we would not be here! Malo Aupito, ofa atu.”

  • September

Apprentice wins

Print Apprentice of the Year Sione Tonga won the Pacific Leader award at The Edge Got a Trade? Got it Made! Future Business Leader’s Awards.

Tonga completed his print apprenticeship at the end of 2015 and is now a senior printer at Stratex NZ.

“It is every Pacific teenager’s dream to become a boss in a company, starting with nothing to become something,” Tonga said.

The judges said Tonga had “an amazing work ethic” and had made a number of positive changes in his life through his personal and professional development.

Stratex NZ Print Manager Ross Halliday said Tonga was a hard worker who deserved everything he had achieved.

The importance of kava

Without kava, Tongan cultural and social values were worthless, the kingdom’s Health Minister said.

Dr Saia Piukala told Kaniva News that in Tonga kava made a difference in people’s lives, regardless of whether they were the king or a commoner.

He said that within the Tongan context, kava was something pure because of its role in culture and society.

His Majesty goes shopping

The King of Tonga, His Majesty King Tupou VI, was spotted by a surprised Tongan shopper in Pukekohe, New Zealand last week.

Photos uploaded to Facebook showed the king apparently checking out some goods in a shop.

Kaniva News understands the 57 year-old monarch was in Auckland last week on his way to Singapore with his wife, Queen Nanasipau’u.

It is unusual for the king to do shopping or appear at public for personal purpose as the government pays his servants to do these things for him.

Kaniva launch

Seven years after it began serving readers in New Zealand and around the world, Kaniva Pacific News was officially launched on September 17.

Kaniva News founder Kalino Latu launched Kaniva Pacific News and the Ta’angafonua Trust  in front of an invited audience during a function held to celebrate his daughter Malia’s graduation.

“They are here to serve you with news, education and entertainment,” Latu said.

Guests at the function included  Deputy Leader of the Tongan Democratic Party, Dr Sitiveni Halapua,  Member for Manukau East Jenny Salesa and journalist Tapu Misa.

Misa, who has had a long career with the New Zealand Herald and other media outlets, spoke about the importance of Pasifika and Maori journalists having a say and represent in their communities in the mainstream media.

New finds

A Canadian archaeologist who has spent nearly 30 years researching Tonga’s past has discovered traces of previously unknown buildings and fortifications using airborne lasers.

Professor David Burley from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver found the remains of fortification ditches, a remnant of the Tongan civil war which occurred near the turn of the 19th century.

Many of the sites Burley and his team found were undocumented and even families who had lived near them for generations did not know about the earthworks.

Burley called many of the discovered fortifications “spectacular.”

Language week

Auckland is celebrating Tongan language week with dancing, music, story telling and the launch of a new book, Tongan Heroes.

Pacific Peoples Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga said Tongan Language Week was focussed on how the loto (spirit) of the Tongan people had contributed to New Zealand.

More Tongan people were born in New Zealand than in Tonga. This gives lea faka-Tonga (the Tonga language) and anga faka-Tonga (Tonga culture) a special place in New Zealand.

An earthquake, a boxing match and a new home for Baby X

  • October

Culture and efficiency

Tongan ministries need to become more efficient and effective, according to a young Tongan researcher awarded a doctorate at Auckland University’s graduation ceremony.

Sisikula Sisifa’s doctoral thesis looked at management practices in five development projects in Tonga.

It concluded that cultural differences in management practices undermined the projects’ success.

Sisifa and fellow Tongan Ilaisaane Fifita, both 31, were both awarded doctorates.

Earlier this year they became the first Pasifika women in Auckland University’s Business School when they began working as research fellows.

Fifita’s research looked at why Tongan and Pakeha female non-smokers don’t smoke.

She hopes her findings will help design of public health campaigns to persuade other women not to take up the habit.

Taiwanese origins

With China and Taiwan competing for the affections – and votes in the UN – of Pacific nations, new research shows that Pacific Islanders may have more in common with Taiwan than anybody had previously imagined.

New research claims that the people of the Pacific did not originate among the Papuan people of New Guinea, as originally thought, but in Taiwan.

And Australian archaeologist Professor Matthew Spriggs, from the Australian National University said the researchers had “cracked the problem of the origin of Pacific Islanders, often posed as the ‘origin of the Polynesians’.”

The findings were published in the prestigious American journal, Nature.

Couple win legal battle

A Tongan couple has won a three year legal battle with a tenant who the Supreme Court ruled had changed the rules of their agreement to benefit her without the couple understanding what was happening.

Yushen Yang had sought a declaration that she is living legally in buildings erected by her on land owned by ‘Olioni Makelita.

Mr Justice Scott said that over a period of years the agreement had been changed to the advantage of the tenants, that it appeared illegal building work had been done and that large sums of rent had never been paid.

He said the 2007 agreement should be rescinded.

Up in the air

University study didn’t work out for Sela Ahio Fonua, but she is literally up in the air over the way her career has developed.

She began studying for a medical degree at the University of the South Pacific’s Tongan campus, but now plays a vital role in keeping New Zealand’s air traffic flowing safely.

“I was a year into my medical studies, but medicine wasn’t a passion and this career that I didn’t know about looked interesting,” she told the Manawatu Standard.

Instead, she got a job as an accounting officer and after three months was asked to train as an air traffic controller.

Fonua is now working as an aerodrome/tower controller.

  • November

Face to face

Two young Tongan sisters in Samoa were lucky to talk face to face with Olympian Valerie Adams while she was waiting to talk to an audience in Apia.

Adams was in Samoa as New Zealand’s first Sport Ambassador to the Pacific.

She was on her last stop in Samoa to visit the Nobesity Kids Programme at the cricket field in Tuanaimato when she was approached by nine-years’-old Rosa and  four-years-old ‘Amelia Enoka.

The three time Olympic medallist returned to New Zealand yesterday after visiting Tonga and Samoa where she conducted coaching for promising athletes.


Pacific Parliamentarians visiting New Zealand for a political leaders’ forum kept their appointment in Wellington despite the earthquake that rattled New Zealand’s capital.

About 40 politicians were in New Zealand to attend the Pacific Parliamentarians’ Forum.

Tongan delegates included Penisimani Fefita, Akosita Lavulavu and Veivosa Taka.

In Wellington the group visited Parliament and took part in debates on Pacific issues.

Baby X

Baby X, the child who had been cared for by Vaiola hospital staff for three months after being found swaddled in plastic, found a new home.

The Supreme Court granted an application for adoption to a Tongan born couple living in New Zealand who the court decided would be able to provide the child with a financially secure and stable family environment.

In his judgement, Lord Chief Justice Paulsen said his paramount aim had been in doing what was best for the child.

Lord Chief Justice Paulsen praised the staff at the hospital for the care they had given Baby X.

Smiling prince

Young Prince Taufaʻahau Manumataongo was all smiles as he took the wheel of a solar powered vehicle in Nukuʻalofa.

The Prince was with his mother, Crown Princess Sinaitakala, who was the guest of honour at a ceremony launching a dozen locally assembled tuk tuks last week.

The solar powered vehicles are being sold for TP$15,000.

There are three versions: One for carrying frozen food, one for carrying passengers and one for carrying goods.

Vaka e Masiva

A trimaran designed to meet the needs of poor and isolated people in the outer Tongan islands was set to be launched in Auckland.

The project is informally called ‘Vaka e Masiva’ or Boat for the Poor.

Dr. Sitiveni Halapua, who was monitoring the boat project, said the running and operating costs for a boat to the Niuas were the key factors behind the project.

Dr. Halapua, whose father was from Niuafoʻou, came up with the idea while he was visiting the outer islands of Tonga during his political career in the kingdom in early 2000.

  • December

Boxing win

Tongan boxer Uaine (Junior) Fa won his WBO heavyweight fight in just three rounds.

Fa, who was taller and heavier than his opponent, gave Argentine boxer Pablo Magrini only the second loss in 20 fights.

Fa had a much longer reach than Magrini and Magrini tried to avoid his punches.

Fa, who returned to the ring this year, had a successful career as an amateur, but has been trying to find a promoter to take him on and give his professional career a boost.


Tongan Christians have been asked to be more open to LGBTI people.

Speaking after a recent national consultation with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex community, the President of the Tonga National Council of Churches said Christians needed to be ready to engage in open discussion.

The initiative for the consultation came from the LGBTI community which want the government to change the law which penalises cross-dressing and sodomy.

Members of the LGBTI community met with church leaders and Parliamentarians.

Good Samaritans

A group of business women in Talihau, Vavaʻu were in tears after they were paid more than TP$20,000 by a couple for their koloa faka-Tonga after a previous deal was canceled by their Australian business partners.

The Talihau group was trading with Tongans in Australia and had a verbal agreement that the Australians would buy their Tongan traditional handicrafts this December.

Tongan-based Australian couple Houma and his wife Moa Liavaʻa Koloamatangi visited Vavaʻu this week and heard about the Talihau episode.

After talking to the women they bought all their goods for more than TP$20,000.


The Free Wesleyan Church headquarter in Tonga had donated $1.7 million to help finish building the Tuingapapai church in New Zealand.

The Free Wesleyan Church in Māngere, Auckland encountered financial management problems while constructing its multi-million church hall at 143 Favona Road.

The Tuingapapai church construction fell behind schedule and costs were higher than expected, Rev Dr Tevita Havea, the Church General Secretary, said.

Dr Havea said because of the problems the Church’s headquarter in Tonga stepped in to help according to its policy.


The king of Tonga named the Tuingapapai church’s new multi-million hall the Lesieli Tonga auditorium.

Lesieli Tonga adopted the late Queen Salote Tupou III after her mother died while she was young.

His Majesty King Tupou VI said his grandfather, the late Prince Tungi Mailefihi, Queen Salote’s husband, once said the domestic work Lesieli did should be remembered.

The king said Queen Salote repeatedly mentioned Lesieli as her first teacher who taught her important lessons including linguistic and behavioural etiquette.

Workers’ places

Another 1000 places will be available next season under New Zealand’s Recognised Seasonal Employment Scheme.

The RSE allows workers from Pacific Islands to work on New Zealand farms picking fruit and vegetables for a number of months each year.

Kaniva News understands the number of places has increased to 10,500.

In 2015 the cap for the 2015-16 season was raised from 9000 workers to 9500.


Tongan student Semi Hausia will return to the kingdom in February, determined to use what he has learned in an internship with Auckland Council to improve his country’s economy.

Hausia, who has been studying a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at Massey University, is completing a 10 week summer placement with Auckland Council’s Environmental Monitoring, Research and Evaluation (RIMU) division.

He is one of 15 students to win a placement as part of the New Zealand Scholarships Undergraduate Student Summer Internship.

The 32 year-old student said he planned to use what he is learning at Auckland Council to contribute to sustainable agricultural practices and to improving Tonga’s economy and pasture production.

Royal wedding

A wedding for Princess Pilolevu Tuita’s youngest daughter in Auckland set the Tongan community astir.

Hon. Lupeolo Halaevalu Moheofo Virginia RoseTuita and Hon. Lopeti Aleamotuʻa were set to tie the knot at Tuingapapai church in Mangere on December 17.

Hon. Aleamotuʻa is the second son of the late Taulupe Aleamotu’a and Mele Simiki Aleamotu’a.

His late father was the older brother of Lord Fielakepa.

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